Northwest Asian Weekly
SEATTLE — Over 700 people flooded into the College Center building of North Seattle College on Dec. 4, for the City of Seattle’s second-ever Citizenship Workshop. There were 375 volunteers that assisted the over 325 attendees with each of their naturalization applications.
The workshops, organized by the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA), are part of the city’s longstanding commitment to being a Welcoming City. This designation means that Seattle is part of an inclusive coalition of cities, municipalities, and organizations focused on creating environments where everyone can contribute to their greatest potential. Additionally, it creates an Inclusive and Equitable City Cabinet that will coordinate city efforts to protect the civil liberties and civil rights of Seattle residents.
“It is my commitment that Seattle will remain a Welcoming City, not a place where children and their families live in fear,” said Murray. “All our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and families should feel safe and welcome when they need services, contact our police and fire departments, or interact with the city in other ways.”
OIRA Director Cuc Vu, herself a refugee and a naturalized citizen, noted that the City of Seattle is united in joining with the mayor’s statement. “The day after Election Day, we saw the number of registered Citizenship Workshop volunteers jump from a few dozen to over 200,” recalled Cuc. “And then to see a number of volunteers from the October workshop, as well as many new faces really made me proud to live and work for this vibrant city that prioritizes helping our most vulnerable residents.”
Workshop attendees Arturo and Josefina Delgrosa, who are husband and wife, have been legal permanent residents for over 11 years. They both wanted to become citizens after the results of the presidential election. “The future seems really uncertain, and we want to get our voices heard. Once we become citizens, we will!” said Arturo, who has four daughters and 14 grandchildren living in the United States.
Other workshop attendees came to the event because the naturalization process can be both complicated and expensive. Tong Liu immigrated from Beijing. She has been a green card holder for five years. “I am here because I have tried filling out the application by myself, but there are some questions that I do not really understand.” She also added that she hopes to be able to send for her parents once she becomes a citizen, “I think the U.S. is a better environment for them.”
For immigrants who cite the total costs of the citizenship application ($680) as a barrier, Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union (SMCU) staffers were available to help sign people up for their low-interest loans to afford the application fees. On Dec. 23, the total fees to apply for citizenship increase to $725.
The next workshop is scheduled for Jan. 20, 2017 at the Seattle Center.